Maria, Luke 1:28
During the Christmas season I like to look at some difference observed in the history of the birth of our Lord Jesus the Christ. This specific difference is not that important, but it could have played an important role in the development of the extreme adoration of Mary within the Roman Catholic Church.
In this specific case, the study of the intrinsic criteria plays a major role. Did the angel himself mention Mary as “blessed among women” or were these words interpolated from the announcement by Elizabeth and put in the mouth of the angel? (Printed in dark).
KJV: And the angel came in unto her, and said, “Hail, thou that art highly favored, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.”
NIV: The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”
“…blessed art thou among women.”
|Witness:||Greek:||Translations:||Church Fathers:||Greek:||Translations:||Church Fathers:|
|301-400||Sin. , B, W||Bohairic||Peter-Alexandria||Old Latin, Vulgate, Bohairic, Gothic||Eusebius, Ephraem|
|401-500||Syriac, Armenian, Georgian||de Promissionibus||A, C, D||4 Old Latin, Syriac, Ethiopic|
|601-700||Paschal Chronicle||4 Old Latin, Syriac|
|701-800||L, At.- Laurae||John-Damascus|
|801-900||Byzantine Lectionary||K, X, Sangallensis, Koridethi, Petropolitanus, 053, Minuscule 33|
|1001-1600||f1, 3 Minuscules Byzantine Lectionary||f13, 16 Minuscules, Byzantine Lectionary||Old Latin|
The question before us is whether this blessed comparison of Mary with other women had been part of the original blessing pronounced by Gabriel, or whether it had in fact been transposed from the blessing by Elizabeth (verse 42)
The three oldest manuscripts before 400 A.D. are lacking this blessing. It is present in three manuscripts of a hundred years later.
Looking at the antique translations available these words are lacking in five different antique translations, spread from Egypt through Syria and Georgia even up to Russia. The words are present in just as many antique translations, spread from Europe, Egypt, Ethiopia and Syria. Noteworthy is the abundance of Old Latin manuscripts from Europe, Italy and Africa, as well as the Latin Vulgate.
It is conspicuous that this phrase is present in the Diatessaron of Tatianus of Syria. He combined the four Gospels into one continuous narrative, adding and omitting as he saw fit. Though these documents were later destroyed and replaced with copies of the Gospels themselves, the Diatessaron had a great influence on later copies, especially the Byzantine Text type, whence most of the late Greek manuscripts stem. It was common practice of scribes to rather include phrases in doubt than exclude them for fear of leaving out part of the Word of God. This explains why as a rule, later copies tend gradually to become longer.
Apart of the above mentioned manuscripts, one late manuscript (No. 1071) as well as the Church father Andrew of Crete (± 740 A.D.) add the whole verse 42 here: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear!”
Looking at intrinsic criteria is a delicate process. Luke reports on the appearance of an angel to Zechariah (Luke 1:8-20), Gabriel to Mary (Luke 1:26-38) and the angels appearing to the shepherds (Luke 2:9-14). In the Bible there are many comparable appearances of angels, mostly bringing a specific commission to someone. Most of these have two or more of the following elements: The appearance of the angel; the shock or astonishment of the person; the comfort or encouragement by the angel, the message itself; the objection of the person; the resolution of the problem; the ask for or giving of a sign and the acceptance of the message or commission by the person. Not once is the person compared or set versus another person. In all cases the message concerns the person in his/her relationship towards God and the acceptance and fulfilment of the commission. If indeed this phrase, setting Mary versus other women, had been part of the message from God, it would be a deviation from the way God had done through the centuries.
Such a deviation is possible, especially in the case of God seeking a human girl to be the mother of His only begotten Son. But when an obvious explanation is only four verses down the road, one cannot ignore it. The exact words are being proclaimed by Elizabeth. The emphasis of a favoured person versus another is common coming from man. We even find such a statement to hail Mary in Luke 11:27 where a women calls from among the crowd: “Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts that you sucked!”
Intrinsically it would be very peculiar to have this statement made by the angel, but very acceptable coming from Elizabeth. That a statement like this could have been included by mistake, or even deliberately, is a logic explanation why these very words are repeated so quickly after another. The growing reverence of Mary in the orthodox Churches should also be born in mind
Both the manuscript evidence and the intrinsic considerations plead therefore that this phrase had not been part of the Word of God as He had given it. It looks like it had been transposed from the words of Elizabeth.
As part of the proclamation of Gabriel, it has no specific purpose, except for contributing to the glorification of Mary, something Jesus Himself spoke out against. (Luke 8:21).
I pray a blessed Christmas 2012 to you and your loved ones.
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